BROOK PARK, Ohio — Vanessa Petrosky is a self-described “champion for the underdog” of dogs.
When not busy working in a veterinary clinic or volunteering at local shelters, she’s got on her detective’s hat – searching for lost dogs.
“We work on reuniting, lost dogs, back with their owners. And these dogs are extremely difficult to catch, not your typical puppy that gets out that wants to run around.
Petrosky runs Remi’s Pet Recovery, a non-profit registered in the state of Ohio. The organization is named for one of the very first runaway dogs she tracked, trapped – and safely returned.
“Remi escaped her new foster home. She had come from out-of-state. A lot of these dogs come in from another state. We have no history on them,” Petrosky said.
In fact, it’s often dogs who escape shortly after being adopted, or moved into a foster home, that Remi’s is asked to find. These dogs need weeks to decompress, many of them traumatized from past events. Decompression time can take months. Petrosky cautions new pet owners to employ patience and not push dogs into stressful situations too soon. That’s also why Petrosky uses martingale collars and slip leads - as extra protection with dogs she fosters or adopts.
When these dogs get loose, their “fight or flight” instincts often kick in.
“Most of the time these dogs aren’t even going to come to their owners. You know, their thoughts are different when they are out there. They’re not thinking like you or I expect them to think. They are now surviving,” Petrosky said.
These rescues take time, sometimes months of patient waiting, setting up food stations – increasingly elaborate traps and even cameras. Petrosky will go out at all hours, driving hundreds of miles, even sleeping in her car overnight.
Her biggest challenge is not the hours, but well-meaning people who she says, “fail to trust the process” and try to capture the dogs themselves.
“Well intended strangers going to that location that are now just forcing your dog farther and farther away because the dog will run,” she said.
At the time of our interview, Petrosky’s wounds were still fresh from the sad ending to one search. “I was in route to help, and this dog was just being pursued by everybody, ran out on 71 and got killed.”
That’s one of the reasons she tries to keep search locations a secret, and her posters only show a picture of the missing dog, and Remi’s number. She needs reports of sightings, not others trying to chase and capture the dogs.
There are happy endings too when families are reunited. One video shows a family crying tears of joy as Remi’s Pet Recovery delivers their dog home to them.
It’s these moments that keep Petrosky energized on even her most difficult days.
“It’s just incredible to know that a dog’s only real shot is Remi’s. I’m out there and people don’t know – because I don’t post a lot, but I am pretty much out there daily. I do work and I have my own things here. And I volunteer, so I don’t get paid for this, but I don’t care. It’s my passion,” Petrosky said.
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